I am literally (not literally) the last person in Ireland to discover running. For years now, it has been the go-to option for people all over the country who want to stay fit and healthy. And we all know that it has become particularly popular since the recession, when people ran out of money to pay for gym subscriptions, and realised that running is free.
And now I’m jumping on the bandwagon. And kind of thinking, why didn’t anyone tell me how amazing this is? Of course they did tell me, I just didn’t listen.
Five years ago, I went for a medical, and as I answered the written questionnaire beforehand, I chewed my pen a bit (a lot) over the physical activity section. Did chasing around after a two-year-old and a ten-month-old count? I handed it back, expecting to be berated for writing “taking the stairs at work” as my sole effort at physical activity, but actually the nurse was very nice.
“Sure you’ve two small kids and a full-time job – it’s perfectly normal that you don’t have time for exercise. That will come, when they’re older. For now, if you can even get out for a walk at lunchtime a few times a week, that’s a start,” she said.
I remember that I wanted to hug her. I knew she was just being kind, but I think I’d have cried if she’d criticised me for not being out getting fit, in between juggling the kids, the job and the house.
And that’s just it – so many of us have zero spare time – it’s almost impossible to fit anything in. During the week, there’s commute, work, commute, crèche, tea-time, bed-time, laundry time, flake-on-the-couch time. And at the weekend, it’s all about spending as much time as possible with the kids, to make up for being at work all week. And especially when kids are very small, it’s difficult to find any free time for anything. Showering is me-time, and there’s no time for a work-out beforehand.
But now my kids are a little older, and it’s easier. I started an amazing Pilates class two years ago, and immediately saw the benefit – not just in terms of feeling fitter and stronger, but also having that time on Saturday mornings that’s just for me, and coming home feeling better in body and mind than I did when I went out.
I’ve had running at the back of my mind for years, especially as my three sisters are all very good, proper runners, but I never got around to giving it a go.
Then a few months ago, I had a crappy week at work, followed by an even more crappy weekend. I needed to clear my head. On Sunday morning, I took a notion. “I’m just going out for twenty minutes,” I said to my husband, pulling on a pair of runners.
The kids were sitting at the kitchen table colouring, paying no attention. My husband was peeling potatoes to go with a roast. He assumed I was going for a walk, and I wasn’t brave enough to say I was going for a run. Actually, I was kind of embarrassed about it.
I walked down to the bottom of the road, too mortified to even think about breaking into a jog on my own street. I turned the corner, took a deep breath, and started running. And immediately felt a swoosh of happiness. Running felt good. Who knew?
I ran out of our estate, down the road, then back up again and home. I kept going for eighteen minutes, and nearly collapsed when I stopped.
After catching my breath, I walked back up to the house and went inside. The kids were at the kitchen table, still colouring. My husband was at the counter, still peeling potatoes. I’d missed nothing. And I felt amazing.
How did I not know this was possible? Just twenty minutes out of the house and I felt better than I had done in months, or maybe ever. It cost nothing in money and little in time.
If you already know all of this, you’re rolling your eyes now. And if you’ve never tried running, and have zero interest in it, you are justifiably rolling your eyes too.
But if you’re like me – if you have it at the back of your mind that you’d like to give it a go – as Nike might say – just do it.